Day 30 – January 1 – 2019

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives His Assurance

Romans 8:31-39

When I was a kid I had a friend named Larry. Being the unassuming personality that I am, we grew up to be friends and did a lot of crazy kid things together. Larry was the same age but he was a little more “experienced” at life than I was. I always knew my place with him because he would tell me…I always play second fiddle. We scrapped and fought from time to time, and he usually won. After all, that the way it was supposed to be, because I was second!

One day some kids from a couple of blokes over wandered into our neighborhood. I was perfect target for them and had been so designated. A week later…on my way home from baseball practice, I became the prey to this band of bullies. I peddled my bike as fast as my little legs would carry me, but it was no use…they caught me. (I told dad I needed a 10-speed Sting Ray!!) That was it! I was dead! I was surrounded by four 9-year old third graders who had it in for me! It was the end of the world, except for the fact that Larry just happened to ride around the corner just as I was pushed off my bike. I am not sure I remember what happened next, but I do know that those guys from the next neighborhood never bothered me again.

Paul speaks fo the kind of an assurance relationship that we have with God. Satan would love to come over and give us a “thumping”, but He just happens to be patrolling the spiritual neighborhood and wants us to know that there is nothing that is going to get by Him! He has assured us that He would provide protection that has no limits. There is no one big enough to get by God. Paul emphasized the point in the last portion of the passage in Romans. Death, life, angels, demons, world power, anything tall, deep, not anything would separate us from from God, our protector.

We are second in authority in God’s eyes, but no one messes with us without going though God first. From time to time I may have been second in the eyes of Larry, but no one messed with Larry’s friends. I had that assurance from that point on.

Check out Hebrews 10

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 29 – December 31 – Monday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives His Continued Care

Matthew 6:28-34

Ever watched a beauty pageant? I love the part when a contestant is asked questions to see how she respond on the spot. The camera zooms in on her face as the question is asked, “If you were to be crowned Ms ___________, what would your platform be? With a broad, white-toothed smile she responds, “If I were to be crowned Ms ____________, I would travel the globe promoting world peace.” The crowed applauds because it is such an incredible task and so worthwhile. (I can see the tears streaming down your face right now.)

I always wondered what would happen if she succeeds. People’s lives would be turned upside down, whole political systems would be demolished, and instead of outer chaos reigning in people’s lives, inner chaos would take over. For instance, the fall of communism is the former Soviet Union has created a lot of hardship for people on a daily living basis. They are now living a reality of freedom that makes them fend for themselves just for food. A greater good was accomplished for their future, but the daily life issues increased.

You and I can be tempted to thing this way about God. Here’s what I mean. God has created world peace (through Jesus) if only people would submit to it. The big picture of eternal life with God has been set in place. We have freedom, forgiveness, and eternal life through Jesus. But somehow we are tempted to think that when God conquers the big things for our future He won’t be there with us for daily living.

Read Matthew 6:28-34. Here’s the great news. God is concerned bout everything in our lives. He continually is providing care, as we trust in His ability and faithfulness to us. He puts it this way, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

When God asks us to do something with our life or resources, then His promise is to take care of every life detail. Remember! It is all about Him!!

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 28 – December 30 – Sunday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives The Promise of Eternal Life

Romans 8:11

Ponce de Leon searched Florida for the Fountain of Youth. Like many Europeans of that day, the western hemisphere was new and uncharted territory. Sot though it housed heaven. Stories told of cities of old in the mythical Kingdom of Quivira. It is no wonder the explore through he might find the means to eternal youth.

Mankind yearns for eternal life, whether through the magic of a Fountain of Youth, a magic elixir, or manipulating DNA. Most of us know we won’t live forever, but we hope for life beyond the grave. That’s not unique either. Every culture expresses its hope in life everlasting. Anthropologists suggest the one thing that makes us human is honoring our dead in a way that expresses hope for life beyond the grave. Even secular philosophers argued for the necessity of life after death. Emmanuel Kant’s “Categorical Imperative” suggested the difficulty of life and its injustices demand a life after death where justice and reward take place.

For those of us who follow Christ, there should be no doubt. Our Lord Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross where he died an ignominious death. Buried in a borrowed tomb, he proved victorious over death at his resurrection. His resurrection is the guarantee of our own. Paul wrote, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, hew raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your moral bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)

According to Scripture, the day will come when Christ shall call us forth from the grave to live with him for eternity. We shall be in his presence, enjoying his fellowship, and basking in the sunlight of his love. Revelation tells unit will be more than wonderful. There will be no tears. Disease and pain will be banished. Trouble and trial shall no longer exist. Our infirmities and weaknesses will be turn to strength.

After Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded in the tower, they found in his Bible these tru and striking lines, written the night before his death…
Even such is time that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust;
Who in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days.
But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust!

All the things of this world he had lost, but he kept his faith!! Faith spoke to him of hope beyond the grave. There is no Fountain of You. There is, however, the blessed hope of life everlasting with him who loved us and gave his life for us. You need only trust him to see you from this plane of existence to the next.

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 27 – December 29 – Saturday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives His Spirit

Acts 2:38

My brother was huddled in his bedroom with my mom. Soon the door flew open and he ran out, carrying a carefully wrapped gift. “Happy Birthday, Sissy! I got you some books!”

Peter stood on the Day of Pentecost, raised his voice and said, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Hmmm…the Holy Spirit? We probably knew what to do with the last birthday present we received, but just what kind of gift is the Holy Spirit?

Through the Spirit, we truly appreciate and rejoice in all God has given us. We rest in his great love. The Spirit opens our eyes to trust in Christ and have life in abundance.

Through the Spirit we understand and trust in the truth of the Bible. The Spirit opens our eyes to sin and shows us how spiritually we are. He then empowers us to overcome sin so that we can shine with Christ-like character in a dark world, glorifying our heavenly Father.

The Spirit gifts s for service in the body of Christ and in the world. Each of us becomes indispensable to others in the body of Christ and joyfully dependent on them for mutual growth and maturity in love.

We continually turn to the Spirit for help and blessing as we live in fellowship with God. When we are faced with trials, it is through the Holy Spirit that God’s love is poured out in our hearts.

When God gives us the gift of his Holy Spirit, He gives us a gift far greater than any we could dream of requesting. He gives us Himself: the eternal joy, power and comfort of fellowship with Him.

God says, “Happy Birthday, my child. I bought you a gift! It cost me a lot, but you are worth it to me.”

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 26 – December 28 – Friday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives His Forgiveness

Romans 8:1

The courtroom in Cincinnati, Ohio was quite somber. A friend was being charged with a major felony. The evidence was against him. The judge was stern. The sentence was fair in light of what my friend had done. He was condemned! Guilty! Without excuse! The sentence was a four-year term in the State Penitentiary at Lima, Ohio.

Family members wept. My friend was forgiven for his crime by his friends but was condemned by the judge. He had to pay the penalty. The judge was not about to forgive him.

I have thought a lot about my friend. He was guilty and he admitted his guilt. But he paid the penalty. Then I thought about myself. I have never committed a felony, but I have certainly broken God’s laws numerous times. And honestly, so have you! This makes us guilty before our God. Because we have sinned against God we are condemned. Condemnation results in penal servitude and imprisonment. It is not just the legal status of “guilty” but also the punishment after the sentence. In our sinful nature we became a slave to the law of sin. We are condemned and deserve punishment.

Thanks be to God, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” In Jesus Christ we have forgiveness. Total forgiveness. Forgiveness for every sin that we have ever committed. What a wonderful blessing for the person who knows Jesus Christ as their Savior.

When we pause to think about how God has forgiven us, it is a lot easier to forgive those who have harmed or hurt us. In fact, it is mandatory that we forgive others. Jesus put it succinctly in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you fill not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven!”

God has given so much to us. Forgiveness is His greatest gift given as the result of the sacrifice of His son. We need to respond to a loving, giving God by giving our very best to Him. It is an appropriate response. Give your best to the Master.

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 25 – December 27 – Thursday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

God Gives His Most Precious Gift

John 3:16

What is the most precious gift you have ever received? Take just a moment and think about that.

As you grow older, it is funny how your view of what a good gift is changes. When I was a child I thought a pack of baseball cards or a basketball goal was a pretty incredible gift, but neither has been the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

On June 18, 1983…I received an incredible gift when Joan said, “I do”. But that is not the greatest gift I have ever received. On November 24, 1984 our daughter Corina Joy came into this world at 6 pounds and 15 ounces…what a blessing and gift. And then on September 18, 1986 Ryan Dale joined our family…another great gift. There is nothing else on earth you could give me that would be a greater gift than my family.

But, I have to be honest with you. I love my wife and children, but they are not the most precious gifts I have ever received. You see, God has given me some very precious and incredible gifts in my lifetime. But the greatest gift He has given me, I received before I even drew my first breath. He gave me a gift that is truly the most precious gifts anyone will ever receive, His son, Jesus. God, the Father, let his one and only son pay the price for my sins so I could be freed. It wasn’t a pretty gift, as a matter of fact it was brutally ugly. Jesus wasn’t covered with beautiful wrapping paper; He was covered with blood. But when Jesus died on that cross and took my dirty…dark…shameful sins upon himself, He made a way for be to be saved. Did I deserve it? NO! Do I deserve it now? NO!! Gifts are not given because you deserve them or because you have earned them; those are called wages. Gifts are given to you because you are loved.

If you are a follower of Christ, you can rest easy in this fact: God loves you so greatly that He has given you the His most precious gift, salvation through the birth and blood; the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus. NOW THAT IS A GIFT!!! How are you going to respond to this gift?

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 24 – December 26 – Wednesday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

God Gives True Freedom

John 8:36

The sincere searcher for truth, either directly or indirectly, asks such questions as: “What is truth?” “Where can I find it?” “How will I know when I find it?” Others, who lack sincerity in their search for truth, will settle for “Truth is whatever is true for me.”

Because God is truth, He holds His people to His standard of truth. We are not free to make it up as we go along. People of truth exhibit behavior that matches our words. We must seek to be accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

Jesus promised that the truth will free us (John 8:32) When we know the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, we will experience freedom from the deceptions of Satan that blind us spiritually and bind us emotionally. The truth in Christ can break the chains of sin, deliver those of us who are imprisoned by the pain of our past, and convince us that we are persons of worth, setting us free from the prison of lost self-esteem.

In Christ, we are free to be all that our heavenly Father intended us to be. The truth in Christ gives us the freedom we need to enjoy an intimate relationship with the God of Truth. “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) We can trust His truth forever: “The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 105:5)

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 23 – December 25 – Tuesday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives Dreams and Visions…of Great Things

Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17-21

On May 24, 1965, a 13 1/2 foot boat slipped quietly out of the marina in Falmouth, Massachusetts. It’s destination: England. It would be the smallest craft to ever make the voyage. Its name: Tinker Bell. Its pilot: Robert Manry, a copy editor for the Cleveland “Plain Dealer”, who felt the ten years at the desk was enough boredom for a while. So he took a leave of absence to fulfill his secret dream. Manry was afraid, not of the ocean but of all the people who would try to talk him out of the trip. So he didn’t share it with many, just some relatives, and especially his wife Virginia, his greatest source of support.

During the trip which was anything but pleasant, he spent harrowing nights of sleeplessness trying to cross shipping lanes with getting run down and sunk. Weeks at sea caused his food to become tasteless. Loneliness, that age-old monster of the deep, led to terrifying hallucinations. His rudder broke three times. The storm swept him overboard. Had it not been for the ropes he had knotted around his waste, he would have never been able to pull himself back on board.

Finally, after 78 days alone at sea, he sailed into Falmouth, England. During those nights at the wheel, he had fantasized about what he would do once he arrive. He expected simply to check into a hotel, eat dinner alone, and the next morning see if the Associated Press might be interested in his story. Was he ever surprised!! Word of his approach had spread far and wide; and to his amazement, 300 vessels with horns blasting escorted the Tinker Bell into port. And 40,000 people stood screaming and cheering him to shore. Robert Manry, the copy editor turned dreamer, became an overnight hero. His story has been told around the world, but Robert couldn’t have done it alone. Standing on the dock was an even greater hero – his wife Virginia.

Refusing to be rigid and closed back when Robert’s dream was taking shape, she encouraged him on, willing to take a risk and allowing him the freedom to pursue his dreams.

If we’re not willing to take a risk, knowing God is in our dreams and visions, then we’re not on solid ground. The prophet Joel says that when God pours out his Spirit on people, men and women excitedly share his word, older people dream new dreams, and younger people see visions of expanded ministry. And God will demonstrate wonders in heaven and on earth.

Helen Keller was asked one time what would be worse than being born blind? She quickly replied, “To have sight and no vision.”

May God give you the vision to see what He sees for your future.

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 22 – December 24 – Monday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives His Presence
Acts 2:38

Where were you and what were you doing when you felt the presence of God strongest in your life? The event years ago…Promise Keepers in Indianapolis was one of these pinnacle times for me. The music was incredible and inspiring, the messages were direct and powerful, the challenge of putting God first was intense…and then all of the ministers were asked to stand so that those around us could pray for us…when the men were led to do that, 50,000 cheering and applauding men all around us…it was absolutely incredible. Men were reaching out to lay their hands on us, men we didn’t even know, to encourage us, and I never felt God’s leading more than that day. God’s glory filled the stadium.

Was this a once-in-a-lifetime experience? I think not! I have stood along the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, I have been in the Rockies; I have gazed on the Kansas prairies. I have been awed at the creation of God and sensed His presence. I’ve always attended church, both small country churches and large city churches, and I have always known that God is there for his people. At church camp and retreats through the years, I’ve learned that God is always there in our midst.

According to Acts 2:38, God promises His abiding presence at our baptism. Perhaps that is why I have sensed God’s presence, in good times like that Promise Keeper’s event, and in times of tragedy, illness, and death. God cares for us and truly is there for us. Whether in rush-hour traffic or the quietness of our homes, god loves us and is there for us.

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…

Day 21 – December – Sunday

IMAGINE: A Giving God (Giving Includes Salvation)

A God Who Gives His Blessing

Genesis 12:3

“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Faithfulness has its rewards. As Abraham listened to God and tried to follow His leading, he found himself being blessed with his every need and many times blessed to abundance. After doing what might seem “crazy” by the world’s standards – leaving his country, his people, and his father’s household for a land unknown to him – Abraham found himself blessed beyond his wildest dreams. As God worked in and through the life of Abraham, he can work through you as well.

While we shouldn’t dwell on the blessings that might come our way if we are obedient to God, we can rest assured in the fact that God knows our every need. God has demonstrated over and over that he will bless those who trust in him and earnestly seek to follow him.

I believe “BIG THINGS” can happen in your life if you pray earnestly and check your motives at the door. God will use those “big things” in your life to do even “BIGGER THINGS”…(like developing our second floor into a crazy, happy, fun, exciting place for children) for His Kingdom and for the lives of people you don’t even know yet. I believe, at least in part, that our opportunity to repurpose our space is a direct answer to prayer that many of us have been praying over for several years.

The prayer of Jabez (I Chronicle 4:10): Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I might not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

In Bruce Wilkinson’s book “The Prayer of Jabez” he shares, “To bless in the biblical sense means to ask for or to impart supernatural favor. When we ask for God’s blessing, we’re not asking for more of what we could get ourselves. We’re crying out for the wonderful, unlimited goodness that only God has the power to know about to give to us…Notice a radical aspect of Jabez’s request for blessing: He left it entirely up to God to decide what the blessing would be and where, when and how Jabez would receive them.”

God has blessings just waiting for you, if only you would seek his will first in all that you do and say!!

I IMAGINE my response to God today will be…